We finally made a decision on our indecisive plan for the summer/hurricane season. With so many reasons to stay in Mad Beach it became obvious we needed to venture across the Gulf of Mexico toward the Emerald City.
My favorite part of crossing the Gulf are the spotted dolphins
It took all the way across this time only three hours out of East Pass
The crossing was uneventful except deciding to clean the bottom offshore. In just three weeks anchored in Boca Ciega Bay Gemini Dreams had a new carpet below. With Government cut being so unpredictable we didn't complain when the wind took us eastward to East Pass. After clearing the pass and starting the backtrack on the ICW the wind stiffened to 15-20 on the nose. Even Motoring became a chore so with the help of Active Captain we chose an anchorage to get some rest and wait for the 7am forecast light winds.
Just past 1am the anchor alarm sounded. The wind was a steady 20 plus that soon became gusts to 40 or better. A quick look on the iPhone 's Garmin app showed a hard storm line just the East of us. Luckily the intensity only lasted for an hour and we missed all the torrential rain they were getting just a few miles away.
For all those in Boot Key Harbor...
FWC checking the fish!
We left early the next morning crossing paths with s/v Enterprise,a Newport 28. As they turned to hoist the sails we slipped past. We utilized the dinghy dock in Apalachicola to tie up the big boat and walk two blocks to the gas station. When we returned from the gas station I realized the little red boat belonged to some die hard Boot Key Cruisers on their way home to Alabama for a visit. I shared what information I could about Apalachicola and Panama City before I was off on my way.
s/v Enterprise, the smaller of the two red hulls
As Wettapoo Creek started to show so did the damn flying monkeys. Yellow flies to be exact! First a couple then 4 or 5 at a time. As the creek started to widen into the bay I was continually swarmed. I could no longer count the damn flying basta%$, I mean monkeys! I passed about three marker cans before I realized that was where they were ambushing me from. Finding the most caustic can of spray we had on the boat was the only hindrance to their assault. As we passed a can I waited a few seconds until the lead squadron was visible and then we fogged the rear of the boat. We were able to keep the counts in the hundreds instead of the thousands. (the bites are driving me crazy two days later)
A little boat anchored in Oz at Midnight Thirty, June the 8th. The cruising season is over. We are back on the Emerald Coast.
We just received a call from one of our friends. Kind of a "you left us hanging" nudge.
best sunsets this season
We made it from Rodriguez Key to just south of sister rock with a following wind by 4pm. For hours we had a bright spinnaker slowly gaining on us. Eventually the silhouette of an Island Packet came to be seen. As we passed sister rock I hailed them on channel 16 to instigate a conversation about Sister Creek and possibly taking it this time into Boot Key Harbor. They had never used it either. They were going to the outside anchorage for an early start the next morning. We decided to take the safe route and go around like we normally do. Then as we were due south of Sister Creek we couldn't resist and turned to take the short cut. As we went over the sandbar stretching across the entrance our depth sounder said "0" feet several times and only "0.2" most of the time. We radioed the Island Packet and gave them the info after we were safely within the creek and had several feet under the keel.
Best coral reef, the Out Islands, North of Andros
This was our shortest stop ever in Boot Key. We filled the water and fuel before sunset. Grabbed a bite to eat and crashed for the evening. The next morning we hit Publix for a couple items to get us across Florida Bay. Then we were off heading toward 7 mile bridge in less than 24 hours. This was our best day, afternoon actually, of sailing all season.
Our favorite place in the Keys, Bahia Honda
Best timing but bad focus shot
The next morning the wind had clocked around slightly and we were dead down wind, wing and wing. By mid afternoon the calculations put us arriving at San Carlos Bay anchorage right at sunset and exposed to 20 knts. The seas were building over six feet as the wind continued to increase. With 25 miles to go we bailed out and entered Gordon Pass for the first time. After reading the reviews on Active Captain we chose Naples-3. Once there our now 25 knots was a slight breeze after being filtered by the multimillion dollar homes. By midnight the anchorage was dead calm and the bugs found us. Our first and only bug screen night of the season.
The next day was an easy, peaceful (midweek), trip through the Miserable Mile and beyond. We anchored for the night at Useppa Island.
Best fish. Mahi-Mahi after leaving Morgans Bluff
Hardest picture to get, this year and last year, oh my to try next year
Best smiles and laughs
Best 15 dollars, used kayak on the cruisers net at BKH
We pulled anchor before sunrise and headed north only thinking for a moment about going offshore for this leg. The once again 15-20 kept us inside which worked out rather well. As we rushed to make the Boca Grande bridge opening we blew by (with sails up) another 30 foot sail boat waiting patiently for the opening. As we entered Placidia Harbour we allowed them to motor past us as we de-sailed. Our speeds were matched as we continued on North keeping us rather close. We followed their lead and released the roller furling. We both were able to keep the foresails flying for over 17 miles on the ICW. Yes it would have been rough outside. As we passed Venice they stopped at the Crow's Nest for the night. We on the other hand fell to our weakness of "we must press on". We made Longboat Key with daylight remaining but not very much. For the first time we could not connect to any internet here.
The next morning was a little foggy, seams to be so in this area often. While waiting on the Cortez bridge we did our normal check of the anchorage to see if the local Vega is still anchored here. It was but so was John's Warrem Cat that was anchored in Mad Beach when we left. No time to stay and talk. On to Anna Maria we go.
Best non dolphin
As we waited the 5 minutes for the bridge to open I started to re-evaluated the weather. Over and over we thought about turning back for the day. We thought about going into Anna Maria or even the Manatee River. The dismal gray skies we very, very dark toward St Pete. So impending in the doom were they that I called in an reinitialized my phone so we could use the radar. Seeing the incoming red line of the front we still decided to cross Tampa Bay anyway. We should be near the Maximo Park anchorage by the time the brunt of it hits.
About 2.5 miles from Maximo the horizontal rain hit as we motored up the sunshine channel. Already soaked by the rain, even with a jacket, we decided to turn left as we crossed the ICW. As we approached structure E bridge they opened for a barge. We tried to sneak through before they closed it (yes we radioed in and they knew) but at the moment we came even to the bridge fenders the outboard lost drive!
Best bus ride with an outboard
Best conch day, North Bimini flats
Ayrton's best lobster
Best snapper, schoolmaster
Best cave, Thunderball Grotto
We quickly found out the over engineered safety precautions on the Honda meant we had no drive with a broken throttle cable. Looking over the situation in the cold rain provided no immediate "alternate engineering options". Plan B meant swapping the main motor for the dinghy motor to continue on. Somewhere during this I was reminded I was a little short on the fingers. The little dinghy motor puttered on making it to Mad Beach around 3pm.
Gemini Dreams spent two nights tied to the floating dock at McDonalds while we caught up with the other half of our family. Ayrton spending time with his mom and sister while I returned to the boat each night. When I went to anchor out the little mercury wouldn't start so she spent a third night at the dock. The next morning I drained the fuel and changed the spark plug with success.
I motored Gemini Dreams over to the anchorage setting only the Fortress. Then it was time to get back up on the horse again. Yes this was the third time the dinghy was lowered into the water from the foredeck since the accident but it was the first time by myself. All went well even transferring the motor from Gemini Dreams onto the dinghy while favoring my hand. Now the only problem was the motor wouldn't start. Seems the water was in the one gallon container not the motor, at least not until I poured it in there repeatedly. Time to repeat the procedure once again.
James Bond night
Now we sit here in Boca Ciega trying to decide if we are clicking our heals 3 times to return to the Emerald City or staying here in Mad Beach. Seems like we have been cursed since that night under the Blood Red Moon.
Perhaps in our decisions to wait for a calm crossing we past up a couple of days that would have been better. Then of course sailing one handed surely meant we needed to wait. Our 8 day wait gave us almost flat seas across until within 10 miles of the US coast. We had the same plan as last time... head toward Miami and take the counter current back as the gulf stream pushed us to far north. Not a big deal and it keeps us from having to check in at Port Everglades. Yes we considered taking the Lake Worth route. As we neared to coast we were hit with 10-20 gusting over 20 from the south (what happened to that forecast SE wind?). Now battle the wind or take the long way. After about 30 minutes banging into the waves we took the long way. Miami by too far north and down the ICW to dodge island. (Instead of spending the day getting a LBO we chose to spend the day just checking in again).
Almost flat Gulf Stream
Sunset over Hollywood FL
The next morning we pulled anchor and went all thew way around to the ICW instead of waiting for low tide (4hrs) to sneak under the bridge. The flashing blue lights kept us from going by the cruise ships instead we took the route by the freighters. Never ever again! Damn Hatteras and Sea Rays! Never again! I thought the miserable mile and south of it was bad! If ever again we will go out farther south.
"Judy Ann's Revenge, Judy Ann's Revenge, Gemini Dreams channel 16" After moving to a working channel and introductions I commented that she sure looked familiar. Turns out she used to be Wee Happy our buddy boat from our first cruise to Bahia Honda and the Dry Tortugas. We were pushing hard motor sailing trying to make Rodriguez Key by sunset after getting a late start. By the time we were closing in on Rodriguez JAR had sank into the horizon behind us.
Sunset over Rodriguez, Judy Ann's Revenge arrived a couple hours later.
Resting at anchor as we leave at daybreak.
Maybe next time we will be able to get a Cheese Burger in Paradise with you guys
Largest outrigger canoe I have seen, around 45 feet
After the little ordeal of 9 3/4s we spent the next 8 days wasting away in Bimini. The flights to Nassau had crashed the cruising budget so we surfed the internet to occupy our time. We chose to forgo the Homecoming Festivities that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Our biggest adventure was the daily trip up to CJ's that went like this...
Anchorage next to Bimini Big Game Club
"No conch fritters"
"See you tomorrow."
"No conch fritters"
"See you tomorrow."
"No conch fritters, but they be here in 30 minutes."
"See you in an hour"
As we topped the hill and turned toward CJ'c
"Corey! They's back for them conch fritters!
Waiting past all those "Salty" crossing days had one good thing at least. We finally got our last conch in the Bahamas. We are heading out tomorrow (time delayed post).
Duct tape fixes everything
While spending the night on board s/v Liberty recapping the adventure we talked about recycling all the WWII plane engines into Bahamas aircraft. They jokingly said "probably held together with duct tape. I deleted accidentally the better location but if you look close you can see duct tape evidence.
... What happened in reality was the dinghy hit the water. I yelled for Ayrton to slow down as the dinghy started taking on water from the bow wake of Gemini Dreams. Then the dinghy nose dove into the blue water in front of BBGC. Fu$& that hurt! WTF! OMG! ...
As the boat slowed the dinghy lifted it's nose only partially full of water as it was still attached to the halyard. Skipping across the water dangling on the line all by it's self as I was no longer holding the line. Damn my finger hurts! It must have really got caught. Favoring my hand I turned to the next job, the anchor. Reaching down releasing the pin and stop to lower the anchor and have it ready to deploy was done one handed. You don't get to be this old without a few fingers in the door and other traumas so life must go on.
As we passed the last pier at BBGC I turned to Ayrton and continued with the final anchoring measures. It was at this time I finally took a moment to check on my injured hand. WTF! I was looking at what was remaining of my left ring finger. At this point there was bood running down my hand. My finger looked like a hotdog cooked too long in a microwave and rather short in length. Fu$&! Oh damn I still have to get us anchored!
"Ayrton stop the damn boat!" Was all I could get out. With his imediate response I dropped the anchor in feeding the chain out as best I could with less than two hands. Once the marker for 70 feet past I wrapped the chain on the front cleat and helded on. It pulled tight and we were now turning to the wind. "Ayrton I need a paper towel I ripped my finger off!" With out missing a beat there was a towel presented to me just in front of my bloody hand. He was next requested to get the dinghy ready NOW! As we had to get to shore.
"Bimini Big Game Club, Bimini Big Game Club, Gemini Dreams channel 1-6". "Bimini Big Game Club" was the response. "This is Gemini Dreams. We just anchored in the anchorage. I ripped my finger off and need to know where the clinic is! I am trying to get to you dock!"
We were met about half way across the dock by two of the staff trying to rush us on. The anxiety and heart rate were getting the best of me as I walked to the street arm held high and my other hand as a tourniquet. First across the street but no keys, then to the ice parking lot and off we went. Horn blowing and driving like a James Bond thriller. We were soon down past Stewart's at the clinic.
From the time we entered the clinic time normalized. I relaxed. Being in industrial work for so long things like this are all too normal. Sorry Gerry but all I could think of now was I'm going to have the "Cromier" hand. Three nurses attended washing, evaluating and dressing what was left of my finger. "You will NEED to see a doctor..." WHAT? It will be days before we are in the States. Fly to Nassau what? Suddenly the blur is returning. For two hours I had three secretaries (nurses) trying to work out options for me.
To keep things in line I started to prioritize. First Ayrton had to stay with me. Second I needed antibiotics. Third at this point I couldn't make my self cauterize the wound so this was not an option. Forth I lost the tip of the finger overboard so I was not having replaced. Fifth was the boat and the damn cat. I also needed to feed Ayrton somehow. Everything else was trivial. Ayrton and I started a list of things to do and things to take. One of the nurses drove him to BBGC to handle the list. With calls in to the hospital at Nassau, the airport, the US embassy and Bahamas department of tourism everything became clear. There were no more flights to the US today but there was one last flight to Nassau. Almost $200 bucks for us one way. All the adrenalin must have worn off now because the lights started to glow and things were as I said at the time "weird" I was sweating and cold, time for an IV. At 4:30 we boarded our flight to Nassau. Neither of us had eaten yet!
Once on the ground we were greeted by Bahamas tourism at the gate and they had a cab ready but did not cover the fair. We were rushed right by the Wendy's and missed our last chance for food. Once at the hospital after a cab ride through the back alleys of Nassau we started the process of being processed. Things were slow at first but eventually the person Bimini called found us and things started to progress rapidly. We went straight from X-ray to expedited confusing part of the staff. I tried to arrange some chips or soda for Ayrton but nothing ever materialized as he was whisked away to the "family room" and away from the population.
My native Nassau doctor arrived and reviewed the options. I explained to her my background and current circumstances as a cruiser and told here take the safest route to treatment as it would be days before we were able for medical attention in the states. A few pricks of a needle, some wire cutters and some thread later I was ready to go once the new IVs were done. I was released to find Ayrton entertaining as usual, deeply in conversation with a retiree as she was also in wait for others. I love to get compliments on my son.
Our first mission out of the hospital was food it was now 9:50pm. There was no way to make it the half mile or so to McDonald's before they closed at 10. We went off toward the east thinking that somewhere between here and s/v Liberty there would be something open. Seizing the moment I flagged down the police unit as it drove by only expecting to ask if Defense Force operated 24 hours. Suddenly we found ourselves waiting on a second patrol car that took us to where Liberty should be but could not get access to the water as everything was closed. They next took us to the cruise ship dock to talk to Defense Force about a ride out. Which became another ride to the central Defense Force dock near the Green Parrot and BASRA. After explaining our story for about the fifth time since we left the hospital they agreed to take us out. It was after 11pm now
We boarded the patrol boat and headed to the east anchorage. As we arrived we identified Liberty resting with one boat between us. As we motored gently up to the starboard side of Liberty I knocked on the hull. Even yelling out "Ben it's just Wes!" Didn't calm the audible panic below deck after a knock with blue lights flashing. After a few expletives and we will be right there. Ben slide the hatch open. "Ben it's Wes everything is alright". With a big thanks to the Defense Force we are glad to be on this side of an encounter with them. It was about midnight as we wolfed down a few cookies and a can of chili!
We want to thank Ben and Darren of s/v Liberty for the 37th time for allowing us to spend the night and for feeding us. We talked of things since we last were together and plans from here but most of all we slept well.
The next morning started off with eggs and pancakes, we love you guys, thanks so much. Followed by musical dinghy rides and the search for a pharmacy. We took a moment at Rubis to search the internet for buses to the airport. It looks like bus 10 goes within a mile or two and at 2 dollars instead of 30 for a cab that was our plan. I had four prescription totaling 100 dollars. After discussing what meds were already on the boat with the pharmacist I took the antibiotics and rejected all the others. We passed a couple of local places I wanted to eat so we could check the weather and mail at McDonalds. (We can both eat at Nassau McDonalds for $8.97) on the way I asked a driver on bus 10 about the airport and he said take bus 12 instead. (Bus 12 goes almost the same route as 10 but has a stop right at the end of the airport drive. ( key words. Bus 10 12 Nassau airport how to get to from end of drive $2.50).
Once at the airport it didn't take long to find out it is Homecoming in Bimini! The flight is full and we are now on standby. We found a tourism agent but he was not able to do anything. No other airlines are going today. Sitting and regrouping I was just about to email Liberty that we may need another night when I jumped up and ran back to the counter. Oh a new person, I explained being on standby, my hand, Ayrton etc as she checked on flights for tomorrow. All booked, it's Homecoming. My disappointed anxiety filled look must have sparked something in her as she asked if I was paying with cash or credit. This surprised me so she had to repeat it and explain she currently had two seats but I had to pay right now before they were booked elsewhere. I payed down 200 dollars and she checked me in immediately so as she put it there could be no questions. So for the next two hours we played on the most aggravating internet we have ever been on.
Going through the check in I had some guy try to take my billfold but chose just to retrieve it and continue on as we didn't want to loose our seats. We ended up departing an hour late due to being overweight. That was two stories within a story but of little consequence. All I can say is any pain killers in my system were gone by the time we hit 10,500 feet cruising altitude. My finger felt like it was in a fire. I also had a fever meaning either infection or I had caught Ben's virus during the night.
It was good to be back home on the boat, trying to get home with only nine and three quarter fingers. with our little adventure we missed the window to sail across the Gulf Stream. It now looks to be over a week before we can make the trip.
Ben and Darren Thanks again
No this is not a post about hogwarts, quidich, train, magic, wizards or Harry Potter.
We finally left Nassau today with light winds motor sailing down wind with a NE side swell. Ten hours later we entered the Northwest channel. We were watching the clouds percolate from the Berries and Andross being blown across the Bahama Bank toward Bimini. The sun was fading but to the north we watched the clouds drop funnels aimed at the water below. Funnel after funnel they stretched down but never making it past half way. There must have been a dozen or more attemps but the air would warm before making it to the electric blue waters.
During our funnel show we turned the motor off and settled the sails for a long night. After dinner Ayrton crashed for the evening and I relaxed in the cockpit with the tiller pilot keeping us on course. Sometime after 2am I looked up at the moon and could see an eclipse just on the edge of the moon. After it was about one quarter shadowed I woke Ayrton to see it. At 3:04 I woke him once again. He returned top sides without an issue an saw his first total eclipse of the moon. The eclipse lasted for almost an hour and a half. As I sat there starring at the surface of the moon randomly obscured by clouds so thin they made it twinkle the view was like watching coals smolder in the fire. I kept watching wanting to see the first light as the sun once again struck the surface of the moon. But I must have dozed off a few minutes. The next time I looked up about a cresant was glowing brightly.
When Ayrton awoke in the morning he was excited to see Bimini up close. As we turned at the north end of Bimini we met the deep water impact of a southern breeze. Casually motor sailing once again tacking back and fourth to stay close to the island an keep out of the big waves just a mile off shore but not so close that we were in the breaking waves near shore. We left the main up entering the channel to help keep Gemini Dreams stable in the tide vs following seas battle. Once past Lands End bar the rolling seas lost their fight and we only had to motor against the tide.
Ayrton was at the tiller as I lowered the mainsail and tied it down. The dinghy was on the bow making anchoring almost impossible so as we approached the Bimini Big Game Club docks I untied the dinghy anch flipped it over on the deck. This is no small feat with even the little Walker Bay as it takes up all the room on the bow. As I lifted the dinghy up and over the life line I expected it to settle a couple feet above the water. What happened in reality was the dinghy hit the water. I yelled for Ayrton to slow down as the dinghy started taking on water from the bow wake of Gemini Dreams. Then the dinghy nose dove into the blue water in front of BBGC. Fu$& that hurt! WTF! OMG! ...